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Altes Testament


Levinson, Bernard M.


A More Perfect Torah. At the Intersection of Philology and Hermeneutics in Deuteronomy and the Temple Scroll.


Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns 2013. XX, 142 S. = Critical Studies in the Hebrew Bible, 1. Kart. US$ 24,95. ISBN 978-1-57506-259-4.


John J. Collins

This slim volume consists of two articles, one of which was previously published, supplemented by an »afterword« that is essen­-tially a book review. It is therefore a less comprehensive study than the title might suggest. It is rather a detailed investigation of two narrowly defined problems, but it also has some broader implications.

The first essay »Revelation Regained: The Hermeneutics of ky and ’m in the Temple Scroll« is co-authored with Molly M. Zahn, and was originally published in Dead Sea Discoveries 9 (2002), 295–346. It is lightly revised and updated here. It studies the frequent replacement of the conditional ky with ’m in the Temple Scroll. L. and Z. argue that this is not simply a matter of historical linguis­tics. The use of ky to introduce the protasis of a conditional sen-tence is almost certainly literary and classical rather than vernacular. By late Second Temple times, ’m had become the normal conditional marker. The oddity of the Temple Scroll is that it retains the conditional ky in some instances, while replacing it in others. L. and Z. argue that the Temple Scroll has a consistent system governing the use or non-use of ky, and that it is related to the manuscript’s formal system of spacing of intervals. The conditional use of ky is nearly always preceded by an interval. In effect, conditional ky was used to mark a new unit of law. Two cases of pleonasm (where both ky and ’m are used) reflect a redactor’s attempt to accommodate different biblical models. In the view of L. and Z., the Temple Scroll continues the kind of editorial work that gave rise to the Pentateuch, but with a different purpose. The redactor of the Pentateuch sought to preserve the differences between the corpora. The Temple Scroll seeks to smooth out the redundancies and contradictions. The use of language can only be understood in light of the re­dactor’s hermeneutics.

The second essay in the volume, »Reception History as a Window into Composition History: Deuteronomy’s Law of Vows ...,« represents new work by L. alone. It is a study of Deut 23:22–24, which states that a) if you make a vow you must not delay in fulfilling it; b) to refrain from vowing is no sin and c) one must be sure to pay promptly what one vows.

L. argues that b) is intrusive, and makes his case from the his­tory of reception. The Temple Scroll effectively sharpens vs. Deut 23 into an independent admonition against making any vow at all. The Septuagint reads »but if you do not wish to vow,« suggesting that there is no compelling reason for vowing at all. Qoh 5:4–5 reorders the sequence of Deuteronomy so that c) follows a). He then concludes that it is better not to vow than to vow and not fulfill. Qohe­let’s position is cited by R. Meir in Sifre Deuteronomy, but countered with the opinion of R. Judah that the best course of action is to vow and fulfill. The discussion of vows in Numbers 30 represents a priestly reworking of Deuteronomy’s law, but does not reflect b). L. takes this as evidence that Deut 23:23 was added later, in the late fifth or fourth century BCE. Each of the textual witnesses other than Numbers sensed the disruption caused by the placement of Deut 23:23, and this supports the view that it was an interpolation.

The Afterword focuses on the Habilitation of Simone Paganini, »Nicht darfst du zu diesen Wörtern etwas hinzufügen«: Die Rezeption des Deuteronomiums in der Tempelrolle – Sprache, Autoren und Hermeneutik (BZAR 11; Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2009). This book’s main contribution is that it notes all the relevant texts and the changes between Deuteronomy as found in the Masoretic Text (MT) and the Temple Scroll, and notes parallels in the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Septuagint. L. faults him for excessive reliance on the MT, and also for too narrow a focus on Deuteronomy.

L. has provided us with two fine detailed studies that nicely demonstrate the interplay of language and hermeneutics. The brief summary presented here does not do full justice to his arguments, which draw parallels from cuneiform law and rabbinics as well as from the Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls. He also hints at larger issues. In his conclusion he suggests that the Temple Scroll offers valuable empirical evidence that might be brought to bear on dis­puted issues in the study of the Pentateuch, and that the phenom­enon of rewritten Scripture provides a powerful way of understanding the process of the composition of the Bible. The fields of Bible and Dead Sea Scrolls should be more closely integrated than they are today. With this conclusion, one can only agree, and hope that L. will follow this narrowly focused study with a more expansive discussion of the broader issues.