Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 44:3 (Sep 2001)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

The Literary Structure of the Old Testament: A Commentary on Genesis-Malachi. By David A. Dorsey. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999, 330 pp., $34.99.

The title of this book is enticing for those who have come to appreciate the liter-ary artistry of the OT. One question that came to my mind immediately after seeing this book was, What exactly was the author intending to accomplish? Was he going to demonstrate that there was one or perhaps several macro-structures in the whole of the OT, or was he going to deal with the micro-structures within each book of the OT? Intriguingly, he has combined something of both approaches. Dorsey argues that Genesis-Joshua forms a Hexateuch (p. 47), but he also deals with the micro-structures within each of the remaining books of the OT.

Dorsey organizes his book into seven units. Unit 1 is an introduction to the book, and more importantly an introduction to the subject of literary analysis of the OT. Unit 2, “Book of the Law of Moses,” is a discussion of Genesis-Joshua. Unit 3, “Historical Books,” covers Judges-Esther following the order of the English Bible. Unit 4, “Poetic Books,” includes Job-Song of Songs. Unit 5, “Major Prophets,” deals with Isaiah-Daniel and includes Lamentations, which could logically be treated with the poetical books since Dorsey recognizes it as poetry. Unit 6, “Minor Prophets,” surveys the twelve minor prophets. Unit 7, “Conclusion,” is a brief discussion of some of the elements of literary structure that need further study.

Seminary or university students and teachers will especially benefit from the introduction. Dorsey gives a brief overview of the research into the literary structure of the books of the OT starting with the unit markers ס (samek) and פ ( peh), which “predate the Mishnah (third century A.D.)” (p. 18) and concludes with the present-day literary studies. He then adopts Muilenburg’s view that “the first step in analyzing the structure of an Old Testament book is to identify its constituent units” (p. 21). This alone is not new or surprising. What is surprising is the amount of material packed in to five pages of text and footnotes dealing with the OT techniques for signaling the beginning and ending of literary units. Dorsey then continues on with an overview of the various ways in which units of text may relate to each other (e.g. linear a-b-c; parallel a-b-c-a’-b’-c’; symmetric a-b-c-b’-a’; and various sub-categories). Even more helpful is the section dealing with the relation between structure and meaning. For instance, Dorsey points out that, “In parallel schemes with an odd number of units, the final unit’s strategic position is further accented when it i...

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