Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
GJ 7:2 (Spr 66) p. 43
The Anchor Bible: Genesis. By E. A. Speiser. Doubleday and Company, Garden City, N.Y., 1964. LXXVI + 378 pp., $6.00.
The author of the first volume of the Anchor Bible is the distinguished Professor of Oriental Studies, Professor of Hebrew and Semitic Languages, and the Chairman of the Department of Oriental Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. In the course of his career he has published a list of significant books and articles in learned journals on the languages, literature, archaeology, history and ethnology of the ancient Near East. His work has contributed to the reconstruction of that ancient world in which the events of the Genesis narrative took place, and out of which its personalities arose. He is quite qualified therefore to comment meaningfully on the background of the text, as well as to offer refinements in the translation of the text itself.
A lengthy introduction of seventy-six pages provides, in addition to what one normally expects in an introduction, some notices on grammar, syntax, and idiom that have influenced the translation and interpretation. These are very helpful and reflect the high degree of competence of the author.
In his literary criticism of Genesis, Speiser follows in the main what might be termed the moderate school of documentary analysis, assuming that the book is composed of three sources, J, E, and P. The section in which he sets forth the criteria for distinguishing the different documents offers little if anything new, but merely repeats old arguments. However, the author maintains that the records of these sources rest on history and were not independent works. They did not originate the stories they relate, but perpetuated a long tradition of spiritual history. The reviewer finds the arguments for the various documents as unconvincing as ever, and feels that the “T” (for tradition) could just as well be symbolized “M” (for Moses).
Speiser clearly observes that the cultural background of the patriarchal stories conforms to the cultural patterns of Mesopotamia in the early second millennium, B.C., and have the stamp of historicity. Unlike some other writers, who suppose the motives for Abraham’s migration to be economic, he stresses that Abraham was motivated by spiritual concerns. According to Speiser, Abraham found the Mesopotamian answers to spiritual problems, as set forth in its mythology, unsatisfactory, and embarked on his own search for better answers. Speiser advances beyond many critics in observing that this search is based upon the concept of monotheism. Unhappily, he makes out the monotheistic concept to be the product of Abraham’s enquiring mind, rather than the substance of divine revelation.
In the main body of the work, the auth...
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