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

Reinhard Achenbach, Martin Arneth, and Eckart Otto (eds.), Tora in der Hebräischen Bibel: Studien zur Redaktionsgeschichte und synchronen Logik diachroner Transformationen (BZAR, 7; Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2007). Pp. viii + 387. Hardcover. € 78.00, ISBN 978-3-447-05634-2.

The present review provides summaries and/or significant details of nine of the twelve German essays from this volume that appeared in 2007. Falling squarely within the historical-critical tradition in Europe, with several pieces arguably breaking new ground in the discipline, this collection of essays sets out to demonstrate the Torah-motif Vernetzungen (“interconnections,”  “intercommunications,” “cross-linkages”) within the Hebrew Bible, the extra-canonical Temple Scroll (TS) and Jubilees, and occasionally extra-biblical literature from Mesopotamia. Particularly in the essays of Otto and Achenbach questions arise regarding the continuation of law-related revelation in literature claiming to be preexilic, though increasingly determined to be—if not postexilic—then “post-Mosaic.” Postexilic tradents of the fifth/fourth centuries b.c.e., particularly those of pronounced prophetic inclination, debate with those responsible for the formulations of the Hexateuch and subsequent Pentateuch, particularly the latter. Evidence of the debate turns up across the canon. The question of how God's will may continue to be accessed in the post-Mosaic era, whether through authorized interpretations of existing torot or new, “prophetic” revelations, engenders discourse not lacking in acrimony.

Martin Arneth's contributions are evaluated first. He offers five systematic and well-organized contributions integrating diachrony, synchrony, and extra-biblical parallels into essays of moderate length. A diverse research agenda produces studies on the Psalter, P and the Noahide laws (Gen 9), and the Josiah and Hezekiah material. The essays do not fall within the parameters announced in either the publisher's ad or Otto's foreword. The often atomizing analysis of the Hebrew and in some cases transliterated Akkadian assumes a well-versed readership. Sophisticated methodology finds an able practitioner in Arneth. Exegetical treatments sometimes leave the impression that the discovery of complex, literary substructures is prerequisite to advances in interpretation. The author's sparse use of non-German scholarship is evident, an issue hopefully resolved in future publications, which will likely continue to attract an intercontinental readership.

Proposals in Arneth's “Psalm 19: Torah or Messiah?” include the following: If one takes for a basis the Shamash-Assurbanipal hymn KAR III, 105 with its considerable literary techniques (Akkadian transliteration, German trans., and formal analysis on pp. 312–19 and n. 17), Ps 19 becomes comprehensible as an unbroken composition. The classical division of the psalm into two parts (vv. 2–7 and 8–15) now gives way to three framework sections: vv. 2–7*, vv. 8–11, and vv. 12–15. Sections I and III are characterized by the overlaying of parallel arrangement and chiastic composition, whereas section II is constructed strictly in parallel units. The entire composition, however, is permeated with solar conceptions, vv. 5b–7, 9b–10 and vv. 12–13 exhibiting this most clearly. The influence of KAR III, 105 on Ps 19 shows itself patently in the transfer of the solar-connotated function of righteousness to the Torah. Regarding the affinities shared by 2 Sam 23:1–7 (Messianic psalm) and Ps 19 (Torah psalm), the direction of influence flows from the former to the latter. One can perceive the notion of royal messiah as the model of the pious Yahwist in the supplicant of Ps 19:12–15. The lively discussion nourishing Ps 19 led to the establishing of the “righteousness” of the king, which ties directly to Torah and the image of David sketched in 2 Sam 23:2, 3a. For the author of Ps 19, and on the basis of Deut 34:10, this was incontrovertible.

In “Hezekiah and Josiah” the author weighs in on the discussion regarding the significance and reliability of the biblical traditions pertaining to Kings Hezekiah and Josiah. An eighth-century cult and /or sacrificial reform of Hezekiah fits both the religio-historical weather-pattern and the concrete, historical framework conditions in Assyria. Arneth believes the basic elements of the centralization laws of Deuteronomy reflect and subsequently legitimate this. The sources of the Hebrew Bible comprehend this based on the uniformity of the text of 2 Kgs 18:1–8. The Vorlagen of 2 Kgs 18:4–8, however, remain unrecoverable. Verse 4 does not deal with primitive historical elements connected with an eighth-century cult reform. Rather, within the scope of Deuteronomy–2 Kings, the reform notice illustrates the end point of an already ongoing history of interpretation. Chronicles adopts the threads of this history and recasts the image of the reformer of the cult. The point of departure is the reform Josiah may have instituted in the preexilic period (2 Kgs 23:4–15*). The completed portrait of Josiah appears first in the postexilic period, in conjunction with the assessment of Hezekiah. Both kings come to be placed in relation to Moses, though with differentiated evaluation. A competing relationship is not certain; both stand on the same level in 2 Kgs 18:5 and 23:25, respectively. Whereas Hezekiah is the frontrunner in terms of trusting Yhwh, Josiah paves the way toward Torah observance.

In “Anti-Assyrian Reform” Arneth reflects on the value of internal and external indicators regarding the historicity of Josiah and his reform. The author focuses on the report of the reform in 2 Kgs 23, within which vv. 4–15 comprise the oldest, recognizable literary stage. The elevation of Josiah's throne takes place against the background of the altered Neo-Assyrian ideology of rule, which distinguishes itself propagandistically through emphasizing internal political prosperity, and theologically through solarization (Solarisierung). On the basis of its specific literary arrangement, the late preexilic, original reform report in 2 Kgs 23:4–15* documents an agenda directed against Assyrian, or at least Assyrian-influenced, institutions.

Three of Eckart Otto's five essays (“Torah as Key,” “Jeremiah,” and portions of “Legal Hermeneutic in the Pentateuch and in the Temple Scroll”) continue the Alttestamentler's pattern of combining innovation with restatements of previous theses. The integration of his pentateuchal theses into the analysis of the TS will persuade some scholars to reconsider the former (cf. especially the significance of Horeb and Moab covenants clearly differentiated in Deut 29:1).

“Jeremiah” engages the book's stated theme regarding revelatio continua in the post-Mosaic era. Postexilic discussions between priestly and prophetic circles continue to sharpen, fueled by emerging scribalism. Prophetic texts pointing to the priests' lack of knowledge (Isa 56:9–12; Jer 2:8; 5:31) and uprightness (58:3–5; Zech 5:1–4; Mal 3:5) document a new mode and level of debate. Elite, postexilic priests retort by downplaying the value of prophetic revelation, which comes via dreams and visions. Such revelation pales in comparison to the “mouth to mouth” revelation to Moses, who beholds Yhwh's very form (Num 12:7–8). Priestly authors also oppose the position advocated in postexilic Isaiah texts, which lobby to remove the revelatory partition separating priest and laity (e.g., Isa 61:6). The counter in Exod 19:6 subtly restricts access to the holy to a nation of holy priests (i.e., non-priests are excluded). This sets the stage for legitimating Aaronide control of altar worship following the people's cultic scandal in Exod 32. The divine presence can now dwell among an impure people (Lev 8–9). It is within the “Jeremiah School” of scribes that one finds the center of the debate between Priestly authors of the Pentateuch and postexilic tradent prophecy (Tradentenprophetie). During the fifth/fourth centuries b.c.e. (the same era witnessing the successive Hexateuch and Pentateuch redactions)[1] Jeremian circles wage a counter offensive with redactional insertions formulated into a series of textual buttresses. This leads to a scribal contest that would be played out on the playing field of pentateuchal legal hermeneutics. Key passages include Jer:1:4–19; 36:1–32 (which tie closely to 26:1–24 and in turn lead back to 7:1–8:3); 11:1–7; 31:31–34. Otto analyzes these texts against the foil of their critical reception in Priestly passages in the Pentateuch. Jeremiah 1:4–19 has in view the law of the prophet (Deut 18:9–22). Although vv. 9–22 postdate the former, they nonetheless connect intensively with late texts in Jeremiah, as well as the post-Dtr Pentateuch and the prophetic canon. Whereas Yhwh places the dabar in the mouth of the prophet in Deut 18:18, it is placed in Aaron's mouth in Exod 4:15–16. The Aaronides thereby lay claim to the task of mediating Mosaic revelation. Together, Exod 4:15–16 and Deut 34:10–12 assume the end of Mosaic prophecy. In Deut 31:9–13 Levitical priests make a bid for mediating Torah, which Moses inaugurates in Deut 1:5. With the mediation of Mosaic prophecy under priestly control, Mosaic prophecy as envisioned in Deut 18:18 ceases. With the law of the prophet (Deut 18:9–22) in view, Jer 1:4–19 puts forward Jeremiah as the first “prophet like Moses.”[2]

With “Liminality” Otto looks into the problem of humankind entering the heavenly realm, specifically the theophany of Isa 6. Although the prophet sees only the hem of the heavenly monarch's robe, he nonetheless crosses over into the realm of holiness. Rather than being excluded according the priestly notion of “separateness” of pure and impure, the נביא of Isa 6 transcends the empirical sphere (on the periphery?) into the center of holiness (קדש), which is Yhwh himself. The seraphim describe Yhwh as קדוש, the world as full of his כבוד (v. 3). The partition between holy and profane thus remains porous. The problem of impure lips is accomplished with a touch of a glowing coal (vv. 6–7), after which the prophet can dialogue with the deity (v. 8). “The liminality of the border crossing (Grenzüberschreitung) can thereby help to open up and reevaluate norms” (p. 193). Similar to the Torah legitimating and being legitimated by Moses, the throne vision legitimates Isaiah of Jerusalem, his words, and the words of the exilic and postexilic Isaiah school. On another level, the prophetic message of Isa 6 contradicts the holiness topography of the Jerusalem temple, whose very construction supports the priestly notion of separation and gradations of holiness. In contrast to the priests who view the ark as footstool of the throne, Isaiah gazes looks straight into the very throne room. The differentiation between priest and non-priest suddenly becomes irrelevant, since people and priests are both declared to be people of unclean lips.

Originally a lecture delivered in Munich, Otto's brief essay treating the origin of evil and freedom of humanity (“Original Human in Paradise”) mulls over the problem of the changeableness of Yhwh's creation. Although created “good,” it does not remain so. The introduction of evil causes change. “If we wish to understand the creation of God as good, then that would be in a world that doesn't change, but it is changeable. We live in the change” (p. 122). Given the fact that in the Mesopotamian flood story Enuma Elish evil and chaos are already present in creation, and the state turns out to be the power produced to defeat evil, P avoids associating the enforcement (Durchsetzung) of the good with the state or its official cult. Only with Noah is utopia envisioned. For the exilic authors of P, the goal of creation and world history, i.e., the theme of the Primeval History, is the indwelling of the God of creation in the midst of the people of God wandering through the desert (Exod 29:42–46). Regarding the origin of evil, neither Enuma Elish nor P provide an adequate answer. In the postexilic period, P's alien opponent changes from the Mesopotamian flood story to Ahura Mazda and the dualism of Persian religion. Avoiding dualistic thinking with its devilish explanation of evil, the post-P creation story of Gen 2–3 offers an alternative route for explaining the origin of evil than that taken by Persian religion on the one hand, the Sündenfallerzählung of Gen 1 on the other. In Gen 3 humanity breaks a commandment in order to seize knowledge. In so doing the paradisal life intended by the creator undergoes foreshortening. Humanity indeed pays for its freedom, but the cost can only be fully paid by the deity.

In “Legal Hermeneutic,” Otto identifies Exod 33 as central to the TS's hermeneutic. The golden calf incident in Exod 32 resulted in the nullification of the concluded covenant in the following chapter. Exod 24:3–8 figures centrally in the hermeneutics of both TS and Jubilees. Both Exodus pericopes are read synchronically by the priestly authors of TS in the Hasmonean period and their tradents in the Herodian period. The question of how God's presence could continue to dwell with the people after the breaking of the covenant receives a new answer in TS, the Sinai pericope providing the key. As the renewal of the covenant in Exod 34 attempted to deal with the threat of foreign gods and their images, in TS God himself revises the covenant by issuing new instructions for the building of the sanctuary. This locus of the indwelling can be only realized eschatologically. In its desire to be perceived as the revelation of God, TS does not depend on existing, pentateuchal legal traditions, since its repeated shifting of Deuteronomy's Mosaic speeches to first person divine speech would appear to work against this. The startling shift occurs in three stages. (1) With the interpretation of the Sinai Torah in the land of Moab, Moses founds an institution of scriptural interpretation. (2) At Moses' death (Deut 34) the Mosaic function of the mediation of the commandments devolves to the written Torah, which in the Promised Land is placed with Moses instead of with the people. Access to the divine will there can be had only through the interpretation of the written Torah given in the form of Deuteronomy. (3) In the final stage TS receives the total extent of Deuteronomy. The Sinai revelation formerly vouchsafed to Moses now transfers back into the mouth of God and becomes the final installment of Sinai revelation to Moses. Therewith the legal hermeneutical Vernetzung of the laws in the narrative of the Pentateuch is completely revolutionized (“aus den Angeln gehoben”), since the former Mosaic interpretation of the word has now become the unmediated word. In this respect TS's claim to accessing God's will revealed at Sinai runs counter to the legal hermeneutical conception of the Pentateuch (i.e., the Pentateuch formulated by “Pentateuch Redactor” of the early fourth-century b.c.e.), which would close off access to Yhwh's will except through the Mosaic interpretation of the Torah written in Moab. Otto's laudable combination of diachronic and synchronic approaches to dating the Pentateuch's formation and determining its formative stages moves scholarship closer to explaining aspects of curious treatment of received traditions by the respective authors of TS and Jubilees. With “Jeremiah” and “Legal Hermeneutic” alone this volume moves significantly toward fulfilling its promises. There is now the added benefit of Reinhard Achenbach's two contributions, which while paralleling Otto's work in some respects set out to solve very different problems, particularly those emerging out of the often conflicted relationship between priestly תורות and prophecy.

Achenbach argues in “King, Priest und Prophet” that Isa 61 could not be the self-proclamation of a Jerusalem prophet, since describing oneself as anointed in this way would border on blasphemy. Moreover, ch. 61 does not specify a prophet as the speaker of the word, and the addition of “the prophet says” in the Targum does not confirm that interpretation. The endowing of the spirit (Geistbegabung) and sending as such fall more likely within the ambit of prophetic commissioning than anointing. 1 Kgs 19:19–21 partially undergird the prophetic anointing interpretation. But though Elijah obtains the task to anoint Elisha, throwing his mantle over the latter, the tradition in vv. 19–21 does not include the rite of anointing (only 1 Kgs 19:16 recounts the anointing of a prophet). Isa 61 does not propose a prophet decreeing an emancipation of slaves, which would require executive authority. Subsequent to the monarchy, the authorization of all word mediatorship (Wort-Mittlerschaft) comes to the fore with the canonizing of Dtr Deuteronomy in Jerusalem. All conceivable authority finds orientation in king, priest, and prophet (Deut 17:14–18; 19). Whereas Mosaic authority is rooted in a prophetic, fundamental understanding of the Moses Gestalt (Deut 18:15), the word mediatorship of the anointed one in Isa 61 takes the form of an individual within the circle of prophetically authorized figures of the postexilic era. The speech in Isa 61 both adopts the character of the prophetic and stands in a competitive relationship to the Torah of Deuteronomy, even claiming equal status. Achenbach also considers possible identities of “Zion” in Isa 40–66 and Lamentations. The 48 page essay steadily builds an argument for the ascendency of the high priest in Second Temple times. Indeed, it is the high priest who acts out the installation ritual in Isa 61:6. Following H. Cazelles, Achenbach sees preliminary hints of this in the Dtr-Priestly Mischtext of Exod 19:3b–8 (which in this reading problematically rejects any notion of a general priesthood). Diachronically considered, Isa 61's model of a legitimation text does not yet assume the conditions that the Pentateuch establishes for the high priestly office. Nonetheless, it reflects the possibility that the anointed one, having been authorized and spirit-endowed as the highest representative installed by God in Zion, performs ruling high acts akin to a king, opposite the Zion community.

In “Torah” Achenbach expands a previously published, English essay.[3] He maintains the Holiness Code (Lev 17–26) fundamentally changed the character of Mosaic law. With it the establishing of the people as a holy nation moved conceptually into the middle of the Torah. The Holiness Code comprises the centerpiece of a revision (Bearbeitung, which tends to be post-redactional and therefore less structurally invasive) that contoured the entire Pentateuch. The “covenant charter” (Bundesurkunde) was interpreted as document of a kingdom of priests ממלכת כהנים (Exod 19:6). Thus Otto and Achenbach both read the “kingdom of priests” in Exod 19:6 as a designation restricted to elite priests. The evolving religio-political evaluation of the position of the high priest is reflected in the new evaluation of Moses as superlative mediator of both word and revelation (Num 12:6–8; Deut 34:10–12). Aaron as mediator of God becomes the mouthpiece through which the divine word is received from Moses (Exod 4:15–16).  In this essay Achenbach continues to advocate his thesis of the postexilic “Levitizing” of the priesthood.[4] In light of the lacuna of historical indications of a hieratically dominated system in Judah prior to Ezra, the theocratically-oriented revisions (Bearbeitungen) in Num 1–10; 15–19; 25–36 date no earlier than the fourth-century b.c.e. The revisions effect the total transfer of the notion of Torah to that of the teaching Moses received (Exod 12–18 and Exod 18–Deut 33*). The Deuteronomic ground layer in Deut 17:8–13* prescribes the installation of local jurisdiction; the fifth-century Hexateuch redaction (HexRed) brings the Levitical priests into prominent position (Deut 17:9a—אל־הכהנים הלוים ו; cf. 10:11a) administrating Torah opposite the king (Deut 17:18–19; 27:3, 8, 26) and accompanying its transmission in the arable land under Joshua; Josh 8:31, 32, 34). Central to the Hexateuch narrative is the transition of leadership from Moses to Joshua. The latter also concludes a covenant and codifies its duties (Deut 31:9 // Josh 24:26). This and the companion theme of the Levitical priests' Torah tradition find no continuation in Judges–Kings. Instead, the Dtr transitions between the Joshua and Judges legends in Judg 2:6–9, 10–12; 3:7 proceed with the theory that, after the death of Joshua, the people had forgotten all they had learned from Moses. Adopting this theory, HexRed positions the pre-national era as decisive for Israelite self-interpretation (Selbstdeutung). The time of the “judges” and kings then appears as the sole history of disobedience and decline. At least one generation after HexRed, PentRed develops the notion of a Torah exemplar deposited next to the ark (Deut 31:24–7), presumably discovered in the Temple (2 Kgs 22–23). In contrast to HexRed, PentRed stresses the division between the priestly office and the service of the Levites. Regarding the high priestly office, into the vacuum left by Aaron's failure (Num 20:12, 24) steps the approved and vested Eleazar (vv. 25-28), who as high priest will show forth the glory of Yhwh before Israel. The teaching of the priests, bequeathed them by Moses, has an “unsurpassable prophetic character” (“unüberbietbaren prophetischen Charakter,” p. 38). The later added, prophetic Song of Moses (Deut 32:1–43) broadly unfolds this; in vv. 44–47 the people learn to take to heart the Torah themselves: Prophecy's function as way-preparer for Torah-obedience is manifest. In Gen 26:5, PentRed places Abraham in parallel with Moses as the recipient of covenant promises (Gen 15), leading to the characterization of Abraham as prophet (20:7).

The synergistic output of Achenbach and Otto over the past decade has been remarkable. The two German scholars constitute two leading voices within the contemporary choir of international researchers plotting the post-Dtr development of the Hebrew Bible, namely, in the Hexateuch, Pentateuch and Enneateuch, with strong links to the corpus propheticum and the Psalter. One does not need to completely grasp or agree with the literary-historical details of these multifaceted approaches to benefit from their explanatory power. Historical, literary-historical, sociopolitical, comparative-religious, and biblical theological insights are not lacking. While exegetically stimulating, the use of linguistic cross-references as probative evidence for expansive theses does not always convince, whether one quibbles over the methodology or the individual comparisons. Readers may also find uneven value within the large number of “corroborating” passages adduced from across the canon. Textual analyses often require multidirectional tracing of the pan-canonical reception history. Complaints that the complexity of the German further burdens the analyses, however, seem less justified as the number of their works appearing in English restating and refining major theses increases. As for the applicability of E. A. Knauf's observation that German scholars tend to have “an idealistic view of the scribes and their intentions”[5], the reviewer does not find that to be the case here. A related issue that could justifiably be raised is the problematic preoccupation with the elite levels of priestly and scribal activity that takes insufficient account of the day-to-day roles played by middle-tier officiants in regional settings. While probably true within urban centers of power, Knauf's remark that scribes “did not care for the people, they cared for the state”[6] seems out of touch with the necessary interdependency of civil servants and their constituencies in local settings. The successful distribution of power depends upon a functional Vernetzung (also rendered as “network”) that transmits central power and ideology to the periphery and then retrieves crucial “scribal reports” from the stations in between. Single terms such as kohen and sofer can refer to multi-functioning officiants with differing levels of responsibility and authority. Literacy levels and areas of expertise would also vary. In New Kingdom Egypt the term for scribe may have described a literate individual. One wonders how well the top tier of scribal and/or priestly professionals living in capital or administrative cities in Iron II Israel could care for the state without maintaining regular and meaningful contact with the great majority of the population living in villages and residential towns (Cf. ch. 7 in Douglas A. Knight, Law, Power, and Justice in Ancient Israel and the Near East (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, in press). Which stratum of personnel would be able to accomplish this immense task?

In closing, the Vernetzungen of Otto and Achenbach relative to Deuteronomy have had a particularly pronounced impact on the classically-defined discipline of “pentateuchal research.” The manner in which tradition-historical and literary paths run through and appear to radiate or branch out from Deuteronomy nominates the self-styled ספר as not only the cradle of the Pentateuch but also the arguable center of the canon.

Mark A. Christian, Sewanee Tennessee

[1]For another important sketch of a Hexateuch redaction preceding a fourth-century completion of the Pentateuch, see Ernst Axel Knauf, Josua (Zurich: Theologischer Verlag Zürich, 2008); cf. p. 21: “All or almost all mentions of Joshua in secondary P or D texts in Exodus to Deuteronomy probably belong in the context of the Hexateuch redaction”). reference

[2]For an English essay treating similar issues, see Otto's “Scribal Scholarship in the Formation of Torah and Prophets: A Postexilic Scribal Debate between Priestly Scholarship and Literary Prophecy—The Example of the Book of Jeremiah and Its Relation to the Pentateuch,” in The Pentateuch as Torah: New Models for Understanding Its Promulgation and Acceptance (ed. G. Knoppers and B. Levinson; Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2007)171–84. reference

[3]“The Pentateuch, the Prophets, and the Torah in the Fifth and Fourth Centuries B.C.E.” in Judah and the Judeans in the Fourth Century B.C.E. (ed. O. Lipschits, G. Knoppers, and R. Albertz; Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2007), 253–85. reference

[4]See in this regard his programmatic “Levitische Priester und Leviten im Deuterononium: Überlegungen zur sog. ‘Levitisierung’ des Priestertums,” ZA(B)R 5 (1999): 285–309.reference

[5] Ernst Axel Knauf, “Observations on Judah's Social and Economic History and the Dating of the Laws in Deuteronomy,” JHS 9 (2009): 1–8, here 5; (n. 14 refers to Otto).reference