Reviews - What do customers think about Empirical Models for Biblical Criticism (Dove Studies in Bible, Language, and History)?
A layman speaks Oct 17, 2008
Like the title indicates, this book furnishes empirical models for biblical source-criticism. To the skeptics of source-critical methods, it seems that the criteria for dating, determining the authorship and possible layers of composition of the bible's books is speculative and fanciful. E.g., as with the Documentary Hypothesis: it is unrealistic, allege the skeptics, for a redactor to have pasted together distinct source texts--a 'crazy patchwork'--, a process paralleled by nothing in ancient literature. This book serves to refute that claim by offering analogues (*empirical models*) to similar methods of composition in existing non-biblical ancient literature (and even in contemporary literature). It shows that the methods underlying source-criticism, contrary to the skeptics, is feasible and the analogues work as controls to gauge the assumptions of that methodology. As Richard Friedman asserts in the Forward, even if the method of composition suggested in documentary theories for source-criticism was not paralleled at all, that situation would still fail as evidence against them.
That said, the articles by the contributing scholars as a collective force are potent; nevertheless the contributions are of uneven quality and I think this somewhat damages the aim. I'll discuss two examples:
Emanuel Tov's first contribution (ch. 3) uses the example of a doublet of David encounter with Goliath in the Masoretic Text which is lacking in the LXX of 1Sam, and argues the LXX reflects an earlier stage of the composition of the book; that the M redactor expanded the story. The opposing scholarly view is that is that the Greek redactor abridged the longer text of M, probably to eliminate conflicting details. As Tov points out, there's no reason for the Greek redactor to have excised so much to stamp out conflicting details found only in fractions of the entire excised unit. But I think Tov's explanation as a whole is unsatisfactory. For example, there's a passage later in 1Sam that presupposes the presence of the M doublet. How does Tov solve this? Well, the redactor who added the doublet must have wrote or altered this later passage. 'Problem solved' (p. 120, n. 26)...But the problem isn't solved! Apart from invoking the redactor without citing textual evidence for an insertion or tampering, how do you explain the presence of the passage in the witness to the shorter text? That would prove that M was abridged! IOW, the presence of the passage in light of the backround of the longer text demonstrates that the shorter text is *missing* something. Also, if it was the redactor of the LXX's Hebrew Vorlage who abridged the text which was carried over by the Greek translator, Tov's argument from the 'relatively literal' translation into Greek is dismissed as irrelevant. Tov glosses over that fact.
Alexander Rofe's contribution (ch. 4) draws his example from a difficult text in Jos. 20. He analyzes the text, assigning portions of it to different strata, namely P and D. The difficult portion of the text, assigned to D, is wanting in LXX(B), which reflects the P version. What does this mean? The alleged 'Deuteronomistic school' must have been active much later than usually thought and inserted a D version of the text cast in D language older than the time of the insertion, effectively hiding its late provenance (a secondary inference made from this is that linguistic data has very limited use in marking the date passages; see p. 146, n. 29). Needless to say, the argument is not convincing. I find it far more plausible that an editor or scribe would have alleviated the difficulty (seen in LXX(B)) rather than for a late 'Deuteronomistic school' to have introduced it.
Overall, the book is valuable, and I especially liked Tigay's earlier articles (chs. 1-2), Tov's second contribution (ch. 8, discussing the literary history of Jeremiah) and the lucid Appendix (an older article by G.F. Moore on the relevance of the Diatessaron for Pentateuchal criticism).