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Altes Testament


Böhler, Dieter


1 Esdras.


Stuttgart: Verlag W. Kohlhammer 2015 (engl. Ausgabe: 2016). 255 S. = Internationaler Exegetischer Kommentar zum Alten Testament/International Exegetical Commentary on the Old Testament. Kart. EUR 69,99. ISBN 978-3-17-021659-4.


Juha Pakkala

The commentary by Dieter Böhler contains essential information about the literary and historical background of 1 Esdras in a con-cise form. After the introduction (13–22), it is divided into four acts, each corresponding to a major topic within 1 Esdras, and each act is subdivided into chapters according to more specific topics. The chapters consist of a translation, text critical notes, synchronic analysis, diachronic analysis, and synthesis. The commentary is technically well structured and clearly presented. With subtopics in the margins, it is easy to use.
The text-critical apparatuses are rightly extensive, as there are repeated differences between the Masoretic Ezra and 1 Esdras. B.’s assumption that 1 Esdras generally represents the earlier version significantly impacts the commentary. Although certainly well aware of representing the minority view, B. does not adequately engage with recent discussions on this; arguments against his theory in Liz Fried (ed.), Was 1 Esdras First? (Atlanta, 2011) are largely neglected. B. fails to discuss the possibility suggested by many critics that 1 Esdras was secondarily smoothened. B. argues for the priority of 1 Esdras on the basis of what would be logical for the narrative, while technical considerations receive less attention. Since the diachronic sections of each chapter often deal with text-critical issues in detail, an extensive and impartial introduction to the problem would have been necessary.
B.’s text-critical conclusions affect the diachronic analysis, but has no major bearing on the synchronic analysis. In this respect, it is fortunate that they are separated in the commentary. B. is a skilled interpreter of the final text of 1 Esdras, and therefore the synchronic sections in particular are a must for anyone trying to understand 1 Esdras. B.s idea that 1 Esdras was essentially influ-enced by an Anti-Hasmonean stand is probably correct. This would explain many topics and features (e. g., Zerubbabel’s elevated position of as a Davidic figure) as well as editorial changes (e. g., the addition of an excerpt from 2 Chr 35–36). – As for the analyses, we have space for only some examples. Many of the weaknesses can be found in the diachronic sections, which discuss the relationship of a passage in 1 Esdras with its Masoretic parallel.
For example, B. portrays a misleading picture of the Masoretic text in Ezra 10 (218). According to him, Ezra does not disband mixed marriages in Ezra 10:44, whereas he does so in 1 Esd 9:36. The reason for the omission in Ezra 10:44 would have been the secondary addition of the Nehemiah memoir, after which the »final regulation of the mixed marriages« was left to »the new hero, Nehemiah.« This would be an argument against the priority of the Masoretic Ezra. However, Ezra 10:10–11,17 unquestionably indicate that Ezra did dissolve the marriages, whereas Ezra 10:44 has been generally acknowledged as text-critically corrupt and partly incomprehensible. Many diachronic discussions in the commentary similarly disclose a partial reading of the Masoretic text, which does not give a fair and full picture to the reader.
In defense of the priority of 1 Esdras, B. often presents doubtful explanation. For example, he assumes that the repetitions and peculiar shifts in 1 Esd 8:1–7 // Ezra 7:1–10 are »a stylistic tool« and not the result of editing or use of different sources (181–182). Such assumptions are necessary for B.’s grand theory, since micro-level editing would imply that 1 Esdras, which contains less micro-level roughness, was later smoothened out. However, it is difficult to see, what was the stylistic principle in the peculiar repetitions (Ezra 7:7–9), congested sentences (Ezra 7:6), and unmotivated changes of number (Ezra 7:7–9).
B. assumes that 1 Esd 8:78 preserves the original reading in referring to Zion, missing in the Masoretic text (210). The latter would have secondarily omitted the reference, because the city should still be in ruins when Nehemiah enters the scene in Neh 1. With the addition of the Nehemiah memoir, all such references had to be removed in the Masoretic text. A similar difference is found in 1 Esd 8:88, which refers to Jerusalem, whereas the parallel text in Ezra 10:1 refers to Israel; B.: »In Ezra-Neh, Jerusalem is only settled in Nehemiah 11 (cf. Neh 7:4). No ›great crowd of people‹ can come from the city as yet.« However, the logic can be reversed. If 1 Esdras, in its anti-Hasmo-nean stand, left out the Nehemiah memoir, it would be logical to make the Davidic Zerubbabel the builder of the city and remove all references to the non-Davidic Nehemiah and his accomplishments.
Pertaining to all commentaries of the series: Is the German version necessary? This inflates the costs of an already pricey book. Moreover, two versions create confusion, since references are made to both versions with different page numbers for the same passages. Missing in the German version, numerous technical mistakes have emerged in translating the commentary into English. They are prohibitively numerous in the text-critical sections.
Since the number of mistakes is so high and partly hinder the use of text critical apparatus and translation, the entire English translation should be proofed for possible additional errors and a new revised edition be prepared.
Since the commentary is meant for a wider audience, the lack of a list of abbreviations of text-critical and other symbols is peculiar (e. g., A, B, L, DanTh, ProtEz). Some abbreviations are explained in the introduction, but they are difficult to find. For example, ProtEz is only explained on p. 16–19 in the middle of the text. A reader who has read every page may not have a problem with this, but commen-taries are often read by occasionally checking a passage or verse.
B.s commentary on 1 Esdras is the most up-to-date and indispensable tool for anyone working with this book for academic and other purposes. Its strengths include clear structure, ease-of-use, the synchronic readings and interpretation of 1 Esdras as a composition. Its weakness is the heavy dependency on B.’s assumption that 1 Esdras is generally older than the Masoretic Ezra, a view rejected by many scholars. This impacts the use of the book’s diachronic sections. The early composition history and literary background in particular are dependent on this. Technical mistakes, caused in the translation process, are so numerous that a new improved edition is needed.