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Kugel, James L.


A Walk throughJubilees. Studies in the Book of Jubilees and the World of its Creation.


Leiden u. a.: Brill 2012. XIII, 434 S. = Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism, 156. Lw. EUR 155,00. ISBN 978-90-04-21768-3.


Richard J. Bautch

The title A Walk through Jubilees: Studies in the Book of Jubilees and the World of its Creation suggests a leisurely reading of the ancient text, and the book’s author, James L. Kugel, implies that it is written for a broader audience, students as well as scholars. Indeed this lucid treatment of Jubilees can and will be read profitably by many. K.’s work, however, will also have an impact on scholarship and give rise to discussion and debate about the composition of Jubilees. K. develops the hypothesis that an interpolator in antiquity added to the text of Jubilees a number of passages that are distinctive in terms of their content and language. This relatively new view of Jubilees is argued systematically and at length, and it will likely elicit critical response as it challenges the consensus. Through the generations a majority of scholars have considered Jubilees to be the work of a single writer, with occasional arguments to the contrary. In 1960 Michel Testuz wrote Les idées religieuses du Livre des Jubilés claiming that Jub 1:7–25 and other passages were additions to the original work. A year later Ernest Wiesenberg published in Revue de Qumran the lengthy article »The Jubilee of Jubilees« which focused on repetitions that he attributed to inconsistencies in chronology. Later, in 1971, Gene L. Davenport’s The Eschatology of the Book of Jubilees identified dual revisions of the angelic visions in the text of Jubilees. Most recently, Michael Segal’s 2007 monograph The Book of Jubilees: Rewritten Bible, Redaction, Ideology and Theology examined disjunctures in narrative passages that Segal explained redactionally. In A Walk through Jubilees K. extends the idea of a composite Jubilees through his hypothesis of an interpolator.
To document the hand of the interpolator, K. identifies 29 passages that can be up to 15 verses in length. K. stresses that the interpolator is not a rewriter or editor who weaves his points into the text; he rather interpolates blocks of writing into the existing text. These blocks contain formulaic language, namely »therefore it is written and ordained«, »And you, Moses, command the Israelites to do such-and-such«, as well as laws to be kept by the Israelites »for all generations«. K. attributes to the interpolator all references to the heavenly tablets, described in Jubilees as containing Israel’s laws written before the creation of the world.
The book’s first chapter comprises a lengthy commentary on the Book of Jubilees. The commentary focuses on the exegetical work of Jubilees’ author; the author’s counterpart, the interpolator, is in­troduced in the discussions of various passages. Readers will ap­-preciate the comparative material that K. adduces from the Dead Sea Scrolls and the rabbinic literature. Moreover, the work is up to date as K. engages contemporary critical scholarship extensively. Missing from the discussion, however, is Enoch and the Mosaic Torah: The Evidence of Jubilees (2007), a collection of essays edited by Ga­briele Boccaccini and Giovanni Ibba.
In the second chapter K. begins to study the interpolator’s motivations and methods. This second author, K. suggests, took issue with an association between the laws in the Sinai revelation and Israel’s patriarchs, who in Jubilees appear to inaugurate said practices »on their own initiative« (207). K.’s examples include the biblical feasts of Tabernacles and Weeks as well as the observance of the Day of Atonement. According to K., the original author of Jubilees depicted the marking of these feasts and other practices as human customs whose value was subsequently acknowledged through their inclusion in the laws of Sinai. The interpolator challenged this view by asserting that the customs were in fact divine in origin and had been inscribed on heavenly tablets before the creation of the world. K. credits the interpolator with adopting the motif of the heavenly tablets, which in ancient texts typically distinguished the righteous from the wicked or foretold future events, and adapting them to a new function, a repository of divine laws established from time in memoriam.
After sketching the interpolator in chapter two, K. in chapter three paints a more detailed portrait of this figure. The interpolator emerges largely in reaction to the original author of Jubilees. Among other things, K. states that at times the interpolator de­-part­ed from the narrative of Jubilees’ original author. For example, although the binding of Isaac as described in Jubilees took place over three days, in Jub 18:17–19:1 the interpolator indicates that the patriarch’s sojourn lasted seven days so that it might reflect the duration of the Passover feast (241). In general, K. maintains, the interpolator opposed subjecting a feast’s dating to human error in counting days from a lunar event, and he sought surer precedents for determining the start and duration of a feast. As a result, a crucial issue for the interpolator was the determination of the Festival of Weeks, which occurs by human beings counting off seven weeks, according to the biblical text (Lev 23:15–21; Deut 16:9–11). Because the interpolator opposed determining a feast’s date through human counting, he associated the Hebrew root עבשׁ not with the number seven but with the notion of oath, specifically an oath sworn by Noah and his sons not to eat blood (250). Absent from the Bible, such an oath is the invention of the interpolator. The original author of Jubilees, in contrast, expands the biblical text on the basis of data therein.
Another significant difference – K. uses a stronger term, »con­-tradictions« (12, n. 15; 227) – between the original author and the interpolator is in their use of the phrase »the Torah and the Tecudah«, commonly translated as »the teaching and the testimony«. For the original author, the phrase represents two books, the Pentateuch and another (no longer extant) book which, along with the Torah, Isaiah had been ordered to bind up and hide (Isa 8:16; 20). For the interpolator, however, the phrase »the Torah and the Tecudah« refers to an individual law or a related legal item written on the heavenly tablets. In concluding chapter three, K. summarizes the interpolator and his Weltanschauung: because he envisioned a great gap be­-tween the realm of God and that of humankind, the interpolator rejected even the implication that any divine law was not wholly of divine origin, and he claimed that the laws given at Sinai were ac­tually a version of a still more ancient promulgation inscribed on tablets in the heavenly realm before the creation of the earth. In a postscript to the chapter, K. connects the interpolator’s revisions of Jubilees with portions of the Sabbath laws found in the Damascus Document (he compares Jub 2:29–30 and CD 10:22–11). Because CD contains additional Sabbath legislation not in Jubilees, K. specu­lates that CD developed subsequent to the time of the interpolator, who thereby lived at the beginning of the Qumran community’s establishment if not earlier (293 f.).
Chapter four provides a discussion of divine names and epithets in Jubilees. The interpolator, K. argues, disdained many of the epithets found in the book, which were from the hand of the original author. The divine names preferred by the interpolator include »the Lord«, »God«, and »God« with a pronomial suffix such as »our God«, spoken by the angelic narrator. The angel of the presence thus lo­-cates God among the angels in the heavenly realm, and this transcendent view of the deity is consistent with the interpolator, whose limited range of divine names further distinguishes him from the original author, in K.’s view.
In chapters five, six and seven, the focus shifts to include other Jewish writings of the Second Temple period. K. devotes a chapter each to the Genesis Apocryphon and the Aramaic Levi Document in order to argue that both texts are literarily dependent on Jubilees. In another chapter he examines 4Q225 and suggests that the author was familiar with Jubilees and considered it authoritative. K. holds that 4Q225 was written to explain and elaborate on Jubilees. In the book’s final chapter K. sets the composition of Jubilees in the context of an ancient rabbinical question: Why did the Torah commence with Genesis rather than Exodus 12, i. e. the events of the exodus and the giving of the law at Sinai? In discussing »the problem of Genesis«, K. reprises his thesis that behind Jubilees there stand two separate authors, the original author and the interpo­l­ator.
K.’s theory of an interpolator will occasion debate. For example, if the interpolator sought to correct a grievous doctrinal error and to make it clear that the patriarchs could never be said to have initiated on their own the Torah’s sacred holy days or its other commandments, wouldn’t removing such objectionable material from the text be a most logical move? Such an editor might also develop a counter-narrative such as that of the heavenly tablets, to contend that the laws were prescribed before the time of the patriarchs, but why leave in place details of the patriarchal traditions that would contradict the view of the heavenly tablets as the first and final draft of the law? An example occurs in Jub 22:20–22 conjoined with 25:5, where the prohibition of intermarriage is issued by Abraham to his grandson Jacob. These verses suggest that the »law« was simply a valued custom articulated by Abraham, a view unacceptable to K.’s interpolator. K. (146) portrays the interpolator as clarifying the information that he found in Jubilees by expounding upon the Dinah story in Jub 30:8–17 (the interpolation appears to begin at v. 5’s »judgment was ordained in heaven«); here the prohibition of intermarriage is linked to the heavenly tablets (30:7). But the fact that the interpolator lets stand the earlier events of Abraham outlawing intermarriage puts a wrinkle in K.’s theory. The onus is on K. to explain why an editor with such a clearly defined agenda would work by interpolation exclusively and never by excision. This sort of wrinkle appears elsewhere, K. acknowledges (64), when in Jub 22:1 the original author of Jubilees is said to refer to the fes­tivals of Oaths/Weeks and of First Fruits in tandem as he recounts a story about Abraham. Why is this an issue? For K.’s interpolator, the two festivals were linked in heaven before creation, and the narrating angel of the presence adds that the fusion was written in the book of the first law. Why did the interpolator not remove the association between Abraham and the joint festivals? K. states that the interpolator failed to notice the dual reference to the festivals in the story of Abraham and so made a »small but telling error« (65, n. 127). However it is explained, a picture of the interpolator leaving mis­-t­aken material in Jubilees even as he elsewhere takes pains to correct it undercuts K.’s theory.
Despite this objection, A Walk through Jubilees remains a learn­ed and engaging study of Jubilees that will stimulate further dis­cussion of the book’s composition. K.’s insights into the practice of ancient Jewish exegesis are illuminating, and they make A Walk through Jubilees valuable reading.